If you haven’t seen Invictus yet, don’t miss it in the theater. I was resistant at first because I’m not a rugby fan and it looked like it might be a bit cheesy in that way sports movies can be.
I was wrong, and I haven’t talked to so many people about a movie in years. Especially not a movie about real events and real people. (Well to be totally honest there was too much rugby for my taste, but it was a Clint Eastwood film after all!)
We all know the incredible story of Mandela’s 27 years in prison, eventual release, election as South Africa’s first black president and how his leadership and faith has helped his country heal from devastating racism without any major violence.
What this movie focused on was a seemingly minor situation unfolding against the backdrop of these incredible personal and historical feats:
Mostly-white South African Rugby team loved by most white South Africans and loathed by most black South Africans has a chance at the Rugby World Cup. Mandela gets pressured by his closest supporters and allies to change the name of the team and bring on more black players as part of his new administration. He refuses, to the dismay of his colleagues and many of his citizens.
Instead, he personally befriends the unassuming (and somewhat desperate) white captain of the rugby team and shares with him that the team’s success has the potential of uniting the whole country during a very divided time.
The film is called Invictus because it’s the name of a poem Mandela relied on to help maintain his faith and perspective in jail. Mandela shares this poem with the rugby Captain, which in turn inspires him, and he’s able to inspire his struggling team to victory. And, Mandela turns out to have been right – it does unite the country, at least for that day.
How did Mandela have the courage to stay true to his convictions, despite so much hatred and opposition? What enabled him to withstand the pressure not just from his enemies, but from his closest friends?
Most of us won’t ever be caught up in the cross-hairs of history in the way Mandela was, but I know I deeply resonate with the question of how to keep my faith and motivation going through tough times.
Regardless of the scale of change we might be working toward, or the challenges we might face, each of us is tasked with finding our own version of Invictus, something to carry us through and help inspire those around us. What’s yours?